How to travel by auto

…. on the hottest days of the year.

– Wear a crisp, white, full sleeved salwar kameez to prevent yourself from burning up

– Wear sunglasses and cover your head with the dupatta.

– Put your bottle, lunch, filofax and folders in the back of the auto

– Sling an arm through your handbag

-Realise then that you want to take out your iPod

– Disentangle arm and reach into your bag

– Scramble around the inner recesses of the bag, pulling out sundry papers, nail clippers, wet wipes, wallet and balance them in your lap because you’re at a traffic signal and the light is red.

– Realise that you’re most vulnerable and someone can snatch your wallet

– It doesn’t get to that because the auto starts and you promptly lose ATM slips, food bills (there goes the taxation) and scraps of paper with important numbers as the breeze snatches them out of the auto and they float off to meet their maker(?).

– Finally find your iPod and spend another two minutes unwinding your dupatta, getting the wires in place under the dupatta and winding it back around your head so that no one can snatch it (who said we’re not paranoid?)

–  Tuck your dupatta under your shades so that you look like a bandit but spare your face the hot blast after the recent illness and heatstroke.

–  Look pleasantly surprised to find music you like on the iPod because you last gave it to a friend and asked him to put new stuff on it because you were sick of your own music.

–  Look even more surprised to find that you can identify voices without having heard some of the songs before.  Play a happy little game where without looking at the screen you identify James Blunt, Bon Jovi (!), RHCP, John Mayer and Nine Inch Nails (!).

– Groan as the auto driver gets chatty and you realise he is one of those. Take your ear phones out, unwind the dupatta off your mouth and decide it’s your good deed for the day to humour the old man.

– Look at him in shock when he says he is from Calcutta but speaks beautiful unaccented Hindi with lots of Urdu thrown in. And tells you that he goes home once a year for Durga Puja.

– Foolishly ask him if he celebrates it, as you take note of the skull cap on his head and the moon and star and 786 sticker on the windscreen. Feel smaller as he turns to you and says ‘Ishwar Allah, tere naam… Hamare dost aur saathi manaate hain madam, hum bhi manaa lete hain. Yahi to baat hai dost mein.’ (God is one. My friends celebrate it, so I join them. That’s the thing with friendships.)

– Sit back, forgetting the hot blast of air on your face and wait for your call.


34 thoughts on “How to travel by auto

  1. Lovely post!

    Once in Kochi got into an auto that had pictures of a Hindu God, Jesus Christ and also a green picture with the moon and the star.

    Found that he was a believer in God in general 🙂

    Please keep writing, really refreshing.

    Me: coming from one of the most soulful writers and colleagues I’ve ever had… 🙂

  2. It touched a chord, MM.

    I was actually going to LOL on your Auto ordeal but that last line wiped off my smile and then brought it back. Only this time it was a smile of contentment.


  3. Last evening, after lighting candles, I went in the church to say a pray to Jesus Christ, a 72 yr old graceful lady with blue eyes and gently asked me, till what time the church will be open? And after chatting with her for sometime, she was asking me some questions relating to the church, that I could not answer, I apologised…I told her I was a Hindu,and I did not know some the things she asked for, and she gave me her warmest smile and told me, that she was married to a Hindu, and her son was married to a Muslim girl. And she was on her way to a temple later that evening….

  4. lovely post MM. desperately need more such folks. or maybe there are more of them, which is why the world is still spinning.

  5. Awwww I miss auto rides!!

    Tell me again why we Indians leave India and move abroad??

    Just thinking of dahi vadas and pani puris, Baritas and CCDs, auto-rides and overnight train journeys makes me feel that a better lifestyle and better money is not a good enough reason to leave India! Sigh.

  6. Thankfully, the autos in Delhi are CNG. Indore autos use kerosene (each and every one of them). You would have to take an extra long chunni to cover your nose as well.

  7. 🙂

    a perfect auto ride!

    and how come even when i am carrying smallest of bags i really need to hunt for the dratted cell phone and am on point of losing everything while at it! :p


  8. Every time I open reader to find a new post from you, I am never disappointed. I may or may not agree with what you say (in general not this post) but always close your space with contentment of reading a well written, well thought out post. Thank you!

  9. Perhaps someone should now make a film called “Auto Driver”…starring…hmmm…who???

    Me: who else… naseeruddin shah. if we made a film on a radio jock who should we use? :p

  10. I have met the most amazing auto drivers. And also the most horrible.

    One auto driver played Rafi and Kishore and we chatted about the lyrics and the music. Was fun! 🙂

  11. I loved Naseeruddin Shah as the auto driver in Hero Hiralal! (Ref comment no.11)

    Good to know that there are still some good guys around!

  12. Lovely post. Brought back memories of similar conversations with auto drivers when I was in India in Dec 🙂

  13. Deep

    There is a tamil movie called where Rajini the boss plays the auto driver
    i dont know whether the movie is called autokaran or not 🙂

  14. I’m glad to know there are people who talk to auto and taxi drivers. I thought I was the only lunatic.

    Plenty of people I’ve just gaze out of the window and ignore them until they get the point.

  15. You know on one of my trips to Dehradun I met an elderly Sikh from Mumbai. He was on his way to Hardwar….

    Meeting him was such an awesome spiritual experience….the guy was a well read person who could quote from Geeta, Granth Sahab,Quaran and Bible with an ease…..he even remembered the verses….

    Has anyone ever given a thought to the fact that how could all the religions have a trinity concept at very base of it!

  16. It’s so heartening to know people like him still exist amist all this hatred that’s been going round.

    On a separate note, hope you’re better and taking better care of yourself (read: sleeping at reasonably earthly hours and not staying up late blogging)

  17. Sorry, but–

    Medha (#5): Next time you get nostalgic, just think of power cuts at night in summer with no water in your taps for you to bathe in either. It’ll remove the rosy tint very fast. I’ve been up in the darkness for an hour because it was simply too hot to sleep without the fan.

    GentleWhispers (#20): I can’t stand it when auto/taxi drivers talk to me. But since I can’t very well tell them to shut up, I glaze over and agree with whatever they’re saying. Works well.

    Alok (#21): Judaism and Islam are monotheistic, aren’t they? And anyway such commonalities between religions only goes to show how they’re invented by men, IMHO. I know that wasn’t your point, but still.

    Me: perakath – you bleddy voice of doom. remember the no-electricity indeed. must ruin rosy memories kya?!

    with you on your last comment. it wasnt his point, but its a valid point. and makes me remember that nothing is a holy cow

  18. MM– I just read the link you gave me. So 786 is actually a Hindu symbol misinterpreted? FAIL, huh?

    Getting a little religion-heavy in my comments here, hmm.

  19. Nice post, MM. Liked it very much. Not the least because it brought back memories of my own auto-trips in hot and dusty summers :).

    Regarding the link about 786 which you directed Perakath to, I would beg to differ with the answer given in that link.

    As far as I know, in the Sub-continent, the numbers 786 are often written in place of one of the opening verses of the Quran, “Bismillah hir-Rahman ir-Raheem” (=in the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent”). Apparently, the letters in this verse added up to 786 in the Abjad numerological method, whereby each Arabic letter was represented by a number. In Indopak, people often write 786 instead of writing out the full verse.

    (Ref: the following wiki articles:

    Me: thanks MJ – always better to get an explanation from one who knows

  20. So glad you got a good autowala. I have had my share of bad auto experiences. Here’s one

    From Rao Tula Ram Marg to Venky in the May heat…take an auto for 15 bucks (I believe that track is not open anymore). Anyway, I am wearing a sleeveless top with jeans (typical college day attire) and am sitting on the extreme right in the auto alone..waiting to reach.

    Auto guy….adjusts rearview mirror and I know he is staring at me…I am wondering – what the hell, I am in jeans and a sleeveless top you b@$%&*d..anyway, slide my bum a lil towards the left and now I am almost in the middle..he adjusts it again…move complelety to the left…checking if he has the guts to do this again. Guess what, he does it and gives me cheeky smile through the rearview mirror. Ask the bugger the stop midway, SCREAMING MATCH…no money paid…wana slap him tight…walk down to college…eat masala dosa of that money kept aside for auto 🙂

    PS: Sorry could not help sharing this…I know what you wrote was totally on a positive note !!

  21. That is such a lovely thought. I remember we used to celebrate saraswati Puja in Pune and my friend (a Muslim) used to come with us and give the anjali and eat bhog and similarly when she used to fast for ramzan, I used to fast one day a week with her (I couldn’t manage the whole month).

    That said, when I come out of courts sometimes still taking off my band & coat, the autowalas figure out I’m a lawyer and immediately start asking me to fight their case 😛

  22. Coming from you, who is one of the best writers I have known, I cherish that compliment! I have been grinning from time to time 🙂

    Me: *heads off to register the name for the Mutual Admiration Society*

  23. Perakath,

    Been there, done that! 🙂
    Have lived in Bombay for 13 i’ve pretty much experienced it all. For me it’s still not a good enough reason to leave India. 🙂

  24. Tell how to get one of these “good” autowallahs in Delhi. I seem to attract all the rude ones who demand “extra” for going anywhere and I literally have to throw a fit till I get one even 10% decent.

    Me: you need to open your mindto Delhi TWB. its hard to adjust to a new city I know… but it’s full of Calcutta walas and they’ve all grown to love it, the OA included. The autowalas do ask for extra, but they’re not all rude 🙂 They’re just people – some good, some bad… *shrug*

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